Richard Matvichuk’s Prince George Cougars are back in the win column thanks to a convincing victory Wednesday on home ice. Jesse Gabrielle and Brad Morrison each had two goals and Kody McDonald chimed in with two assists as the Cougars defeated the defending WHL champs, the Brandon Wheat Kings by a 5-1 count. Ty Edmonds had 24 saves, Joel Lakusta and Tate Olson were each +4 and Jansen Harkins notched his 200th career point in the WHL with a third period assist. Stellio Mattheos had Brandon’s lone goal which came with just under six minutes remaining.
After a relatively even first 10 minutes the Cougars took control in the final half of the first. At one point the shots were 4-4 but the Cougars ended up with a 14-5 edge in the shot category. The game’s first goal came late in first when Kody McDonald won a puck battle behind the Wheat Kings net, threw a perfect pass to Joel Lakusta at the right point. From there Lakusta did the rest firing a perfect low shot that snuck under the glove of Brandon starter Logan Thompson and in to make it 1-0.
More of the same from the Cougars in the second as they outshot Brandon 12-5 and converted on three of their chances. First it was Brad Morrison who wired home his 11th from the high slot at 9:41. Kody McDonald started the play with some terrific work along the wall to win the puck free against two Brandon defenders. Morrison’s 11th was also assisted by Brogan O’Brien. Just over three minutes later Morrison added another when he snuck in close and was able to finesse a Yan Khomenko rebound past Thompson and in.
Jesse Gabrielle then got in on the act at 18:34 when he one-timed home a pass from Tate Olson on a Cougars power play to make the game 4-0. Gabrielle’s 17th of the season helped snap a zero-for-20 power play drought for the Cougars who held a 26-10 advantage in the shots department after 40 minutes.
5:09 into the third period Jesse Gabrielle secured his second goal of the game off his own rebound. Jansen Harkins started the play with a perfect breakaway pass to the streaking Gabrielle. Gabrielle’s initial backhand shot was denied by Thompson but Gabrielle followed the rebound to the corner and was able to deflect the puck off of Thompson and in from behind the goal line to make the score 5-0. Harkins’ assist marked the 200th point of his WHL career. He now needs only 40 points to become the Cougars franchise leading scorer.
Stellio Mattheos ended Ty Edmonds’ shutout bid with less than five minutes remaining when he ripped home a shot from the slot on a Brandon power play but that’s as close as they’d get. The Cougars held on to earn the 5-1 victory improving their B.C. Division leading record to 21-7-2-0 in the process. Each team went one-for-one on the power play.
For the home stand the Cougars are now 2-1 and will look to make it two straight wins at home when they take the ice Friday night against their 2016 playoff rivals, the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Gabrielle now has three goals and two assists for five points in two games against the Wheat Kings dating back to last season. He leads the Cougars with 10 multi-point games.
Joel Lakusta had previously gone 29 games without a goal before he opened the scoring Wednesday night.
The Cougars are now 16-1-1-0 when Brad Morrison secures at least a point.